Question about PC Desktops

1 Answer

How to Wipe, Degauss, or Destroy Data on a Hard Drive

Posted by on

1 Answer

  • Level 2:

    An expert who has achieved level 2 by getting 100 points

    MVP:

    An expert that got 5 achievements.

    Scholar:

    An expert who has written 20 answers of more than 400 characters.

    Hot-Shot:

    An expert who has answered 20 questions.

  • Expert
  • 84 Answers

You own a computer and then purchased a new one. After moving all of your important data to the new computer and deciding to sell or donate the old computer you are faced with the question of deleting the data or destroying the hard drive. One one hand, if you delete the data and reinstall the operating system the next owner can quickly use the computer. If you destroy the hard drive, another drive would have to be installed for the computer to be useful again. 
What if the hard drive lands into the wrong hands? Your tax return, financial records, intimate photos, and more could be used against you. 

With the 2007 NBA Playoffs on TV this month, an interesting connection has arose. It seems the San Antonio Spurs guard, Bruce Bowen, and his wife have filed a lawsuit against a local computer firm when their hard drive and data ended up on another person's computer. The recipient of the hard drive contacted Mr. Bowen and informed him of the breach of privacy. To read more about this incident visit the news article. As a computer consultant myself, I see a huge breach of computer privacy with this case and I foresee Mr. Bowen winning the lawsuit easily.  


Now what can you do to avoid a similar situation as Mr. Bowen's? First you have to decide if you want to permanently erase the data or destroy the drive. If you decide to permanently erase the data, you have several options. However let's go over what you DON'T want to do.
Don't just delete your data and empty the recycle bin
Don't just format the hard drive
Don't just format and reinstall Windows or another operating system
Why don't you want to do the above? It seems this would be enough to make sure your data isn't compromised.

Let's take a step back and understand how data is stored on a hard drive. When information is written to a drive, the location of the information is stored in a file that resembles a table of contents for a book, On computers running DOS and Windows operating systems, the File Allocation Table (FAT) or the Master File Table (MFT) holds this information. When a file is deleted, the FAT or MFT table is updated to tell the computer the space on the hard drive is available, however the actual data is not deleted until it is overwritten with new data. This is why you read about computer forensic teams, the FBI, and other law enforcement being able to recover data to solve crimes or incriminate individuals. Using software undelete tools, you can restore files that were accidentally or otherwise deleted. In more severe case, services such as Drive Savers are used to recover data that has been physically or electronically destroyed. 

Baring any of these extra efforts, you can use the procedures below to erase or destroy your data so the average individual won't be able to recover anything from your computer hard drive.

Using Wipe Utilities

In order to prevent data from being recovered, you should use data wiping software to completely erase the information to Department of Defense (DOD) standards. I recommend the following free tools to sanitize or wipe a hard drive of information:

Darik's Boot and Nuke - a program that can be booted from floppy or CD to completely erase a hard drive
Eraser by Heidi Computers Limited
Active@ KillDisk
If you plan on giving your computer away, selling it, or otherwise disposing of it, please destroy the data on it by using one of the above wiping utilities. 

Degaussing a Hard Drive

An extra step is to degauss the hard drive. Degaussing is a process whereby the magnetic media is erased using a reverse magnetic field to scramble the electronic data and make it unreadable. Unfortunately degaussing machines are rather expensive ($2000.00 or more) and are not realistic purchases for the average consumer. However, you can send your hard drive to a degaussing company like Garner Products or SEM and for a few dollars can have your hard drive completely degaussed and/or destroyed. If your data security is important enough, this is a wise step.

Physically Destroying a Hard Drive

Physically destroying a hard drive is by far the most effective method for the average person to ensure the safety of their data. However, please wear protective glasses and other gear if you decide to physically destroy a drive yourself. It can be a dangerous activity that I don't recommend to everyone. Also, as a precaution, wrap the hard drive in a towel so the parts don't fly off and do more damage.

Whether its smashing the hard drive with a sledgehammer, drilling holes into the drive, tearing the drive apart and destroying the platters, shredding the drive, or other methods your sensitive data will be safe. 

For the most security, I recommend doing as many of the above procedures (wiping the drive, degaussing it, and destroying it) as you can. If a drive is wiped, degaussed, and destroyed the chances of recovering the data is almost nil.

Conclusion

If a computer store, consultant, or other qualified computer tech tells you your hard drive is crashed and the data is unrecoverable, ask for them to return the original drive to you. This way you can physically destroy and dispose of the drive to your satisfaction and avoid situations like Mr. Bowen's where your data suddenly appears on someone else's computer screen.

Posted on Oct 18, 2008

Add Your Answer

Uploading: 0%

my-video-file.mp4

Complete. Click "Add" to insert your video. Add

×

Loading...
Loading...

Related Questions:

1 Answer

I need to remove all my personal information off my dell dimension 4600 how do I do it


Depending on how secure you need the data erased: The easiest way is to create a new account with a different name (with administrator privileges). Logout of your account, login to new account, delete your account and all data associate it. Your data MIGHT be recoverable with recovery software but WON'T be readily available to anyone without recovery software. If you need ABSOLUTE data erasure - remove the drive and melt it with a blow torch. Don't want/need to destroy the drive? You can remove the drive, connect it to another computer (either internally or externally by using a USB adapter), and overwrite the drive with all zero's. Beliefs are that the more times you overwrite the drive, the less recoverable your data is. But more recent studies show that a single wipe is all that is required for modern drives.

Apr 25, 2014 | Dell Dimension 4600 PC Desktop

1 Answer

Erase hp pavillon 6630 desktop hard drive


If you want to wipe the data off the hard disk so no one can recover data off the hard disk and don't want to re-install Windows then -
Wipe Data off Hard Disk with Darik's Boot and Nuke, (DBAN) Create a Darik's Boot and Nuke on CD disc, then boot up the computer with this disc. http://www.dban.org/download

Mar 09, 2013 | HP Pavilion 6630 PC Desktop

2 Answers

My hard disk (C drive) is showing as "not installed" in my BIOS menu on my Dell Dimension 3000. My data is backed up and I just want to wipe the hard drive.


Open your computer and de-assemble the hard disk, clean data buses and ports and reassemble the hard disk, it will work.

Jul 29, 2011 | Dell Dimension 3000 PC Desktop

4 Answers

How do I remove the harddrive from my dell dimension 4400? I am re-cycling the computer and want to destroy the hard drive for security purposes.


Hello,

First go to this page

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/dim4400/techov.htm#1101565

If you scroll down just a little, it shows how your case opens up. Lay it on its left side (right side if you are looking from the front), press in the 2 locking tabs, and lift up.

That picture shows the hard drive location. Simply remove the data and power cables from the back. Then squeeze the plastic clips on the end of the drive and slide it up and out. That's it. You can remove the rail from the drive and slide it back in if someone else may be using it.

Thanks for using Fixya.

Oct 25, 2009 | Dell Dimension 4400 PC Desktop

2 Answers

Erase a hard drive


IF you have the XP installation CD you can easily do that, Just set your BIOS to boot from the CDrom then put the XP CD on your CD drive then restart the computer , so your computer will automatically boot from the XP installation CD then on that process you will have an option to format the entire hard drive that you have using the XP CD installation, then just let the installation finish...

Oct 16, 2008 | PC Desktops

1 Answer

Eliminate all info on emachine PC


There's an excellent tool I use myself called KillDisk that is free, just download it and copy it to a bootable floppy disk, then use it to entirely wipe your whole hard drive, it just takes a few hours depending on your computer speed and drive size. It can be configured to wipe to Department of Defense security standards (takes longer) or just random 0s and 1s. I highly recommend this software, it's very easy to use and best - free!

Kudos to you for donating your PC, and for being smart enough to wipe the hard drive!

Please be sure to back up important emails and any data first!! :)

Jun 10, 2008 | E-Machines eMachines Desktop PC

3 Answers

Wiping a hard drive


Hi,

The following are the instructions to wipe out the hard drive.

Turn off the system.

Then turn on the system and immediately when you see the Dell logo, press & hold the control key & f11(function key 11).

It will initiate the pc restore option in the Dell system.

PC Restore will restore the system to the factory installed conditions(OS,Drivers & applicatiopn came with the computer).

If no pc restoe available try the softwares

http://killdisk.com/

http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/

Good Luck.

Live, Love, Laugh.

May 05, 2008 | Dell Dimension 3000 PC Desktop

3 Answers

How to get to DOS


If you have a boot disk/cd, you can do a format of the hard disk. This will erase all data. You will, of course, have to reinstall the OS again..

Apr 18, 2008 | Gateway GT4022 PC Desktop

1 Answer

Remove and destroy old hard drive


What I would do is take a screw driver a very small phillips, You can take it apart and remove the disks and destroy and break disks there just like a cd rom and then you can send the rest or it to be recycle at your nearest recycling plant that takes care of computer components. You can just put it back together and recycle it Please don't just throw it in the garbage, Toshiba has a place if you call the 800 number you can send the hole drive and they will destroy it for you, If you want to do that too. I would trust them that they would do so. I am sure if anything happened after that they would be responsible for it... I hope that helps you out...

Jan 16, 2008 | Gateway 505GR PC Desktop

Not finding what you are looking for?
PC Desktops Logo

Related Topics:

285 people viewed this question

Ask a Question

Usually answered in minutes!

Top PC Desktops Experts

joecoolvette
joecoolvette

Level 3 Expert

5660 Answers

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan

Level 3 Expert

27725 Answers

Les Dickinson
Les Dickinson

Level 3 Expert

18304 Answers

Are you a PC Desktop Expert? Answer questions, earn points and help others

Answer questions

Manuals & User Guides

Loading...